Friday, January 20, 2017

SimTower: The Vertical Empire (1994)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many, many years ago, this game called SimCity came out. It was this revolutionary game that allowed people to design and run a city. By todays standards, the graphics would be considered cheap, but it started a whole line of products, including SimTower. I first came across this game about ten years ago. (Yeah, it’s that old.) A friend had gotten permission to install it on a lab computer or two, so that everyone could play it. I eventually ended up getting it for myself so that I could play at home.

For those that aren’t familiar with the Sim concept, each of the Sim games basically simulates something. SimCity simulates a city. There’s SimFarm, which simulates a farm. I think you can see the pattern here. With SimTower, you’re given a tower to run. Unfortunately, it’s in only two dimensions, so it’s not that complicated. You start out with a one-star rating. This means that you can start out by building a lobby, a basic elevator and a few basic rooms like a condo or an office. You can also put in restaurants and movie theaters. Hotel rooms come in different sizes (single occupancy, double occupancy and suite) and require room service, which is a separate unit that cannot be removed once placed. (Room service also requires special elevators to get to other floors.)

As you accomplish different things, you get more stars. I believe that a population of 300 is all that is needed for a second star. (You can’t lose stars, so if you hit 300 and fall below it shortly thereafter, you won’t go back down to one.) With a second star comes more things you can build. Eventually, you get things like apartments, service elevators, recycling centers and even a subway. There’s a guide within the game that explains exactly what is necessary to progress to each level. In some cases, like with recycling centers, you simply need to have enough for the capacity of your building to progress. When you’ve met all of the criteria, you become a five-star establishment. (I’m told that there is a way to ‘win’ the game eventually, but I’ve never been able to do that.)

The first floor has to be only a lobby and the width of the tower is based on that. (Each floor can be no wider than the floor below it.) Above that, you get an additional 104 levels. Aside from the first floor lobbies can go on every fifteenth floor, starting with the fifteenth floor. You can also have ten basement levels, which is where parking has to go. Also, the subway has to go on the lowest of the basement floors. (You’ll find that there are certain units that can only go either above or below ground while others can go anywhere.) You’ll eventually get express elevators, which go to the first floor and all of the basement floors as well as every fifteenth floor. (I don’t know if you have to have a lobby there for it to be effective.) You can also use escalators and stairs to alleviate elevator traffic, but people are only willing to walk up or down a certain number of flights.

You need to pay attention to the budget. Condos tend to generate a lot of money, but hotel rooms may not all be used and may drain your budget. Room service and recycling also tend to be a drain, even though they are necessary. You have to find the appropriate balance. You also have to keep people happy. For instance, people living in condos and hotel rooms don’t like to be placed too close to an office unit. Office workers will eventually demand parking. No one likes to have to walk too far to the elevator or stairs, so you have to space them properly. (You can tell when someone’s mad by the color of their icon. To see a person’s icon, either see them while they’re waiting at the elevator or click on a unit.)

There’s not too much to the graphics; it looks like each type of unit has maybe six different panels that it rotates through to show motion. The building has phases such as night and day and the different seasons. It may seem simple, but it’s very easy to lose money in this game. If you’re balance goes too far into negative territory, you have to start over.

The interface is very simple. You have the window with the tower in it and two control bars. One control bar has the different units you can install and also has the pause button. The other shows your balance, the number of stars you have and the time that’s progressed, as expressed in number of years, seasons and days from the start. When I go to maximize the screen, it doesn’t take up the full screen. (I think it was designed for a smaller screen.) However, I can at least move the bars so that they don’t block my view of the tower.

The game has run on all of the computers that I’ve had over the years, regardless of the version of Windows that I’ve been using. That’s probably because there’s nothing fancy like multiplayer or anything. There really hasn’t been any updating as we’ve seen with the SimCity series. So far as I know, there’s just SimTower.

If you’re looking for a good way to kill a few hours, this is your game. It’s average in many respects. 

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